FAIRBORN — Under first-year head coach Jeff Mercer, the Wright State baseball team continued its string of success during the 2017 season.
Mercer was named head coach on July 13, 2016, but he was no stranger to the success of the program as he played for the Raiders in 2008 and 2009, earning All-Horizon League honors in both seasons. He then was an assistant coach from 2014-16, a three-year stretch that saw WSU win 124 games, including a school-record 46 wins in 2016, make back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Regional Finals, tally 30 all-league honorees and have five players drafted in 2016.
The 2017 campaign added on to that success as Wright State finished 38-21 and advanced to the Horizon League Tournament finals for the fifth consecutive year and 12th time overall. The Raiders also posted three wins over nationally-ranked teams and finished the regular season ranked in the top 50 nationally in several statistical categories.
Here is a look back at some of the highlights of the 2017 season and a brief preview of the coming months.
• Posted at least 35 wins for the fourth straight season and sixth time in the last seven years and won 30 or more games for the 11th time in the last 12 years. Won 20 or more league games for the fourth consecutive year and fifth time in the last six seasons.
• Along with being the first head coach that also played for the Raiders in program history, the 38 overall wins by Jeff Mercer were the most by a rookie coach along with the 21 league victories.
• Finished the regular season with an RPI of 98.
• Started the season by winning two of three games at #10 Clemson, marking the first time the Raiders had won two games over a ranked program in a series since taking the final two of a three-game series at #18 Mississippi February 24 and 25, 2007.
• Appeared in the Baseball America weekly poll for the first time ever at #25 following the wins at Clemson.
• Won the series finale at #4 South Carolina, giving Wright State 14 wins over a ranked program since the start of the 2007 season.
• The Raiders were a part of 14 national polls during the season. Along with the Baseball America poll on February 20, WSU received votes in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll on March 6, April 10, April 17 and May 8 and in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Poll on February 20, February 27, March 6, April 3, April 10, April 17, April 24, May 1 and May 8.
• In the Division I national rankings (out of 300 schools), Wright State was second in stolen bases with 130, fourth in triples with 26, 36th in shutouts with five, 40th in WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) at 1.31, 42nd in earned run average at 3.75, 43rd in double plays with 51 and 49th in hits allowed per nine innings at 8.51. The winning percentage of .644 was 45th.
• The 130 stolen bases set a new single-season record for the Raiders, bettering the 128 steals in 1987. WSU pitchers also set a season record for strikeouts with 423 while the 16 saves tied the 2012 and 2015 squads for the most in team history. The 26 triples were the fifth-most and the 3.70 earned run average was 10th.
• Junior second baseman Matt Morrow, a First Team All-Horizon League selection, ranked third in the league in runs scored (51), fourth in hits (76), fifth in walks (35), tied for fifth in batting average (.333), sixth in on-base percentage (.427) and eighth in total bases (111). He posted a team-best 25 multiple-hit games, had nine multiple-RBI games and also reached base in 23 straight games. He was also named to the All-Tournament Team.
• Freshman pitcher Ryan Weiss, like Morrow, was a First Team All-Horizon League selection and was also the league’s Freshman of the Year, marking the fourth consecutive year that a Raider has received the honor. Weiss, the league’s Pitcher of the Week on May 22, finished second in the league in earned run average (.213), tied for second in wins (8), third in strikeouts (80), fourth in opposing batting average (.237) and sixth in innings pitched (88.2).
• Along with his Horizon League honors, Weiss was also selected Second Team All-Mideast Region by the American Baseball Coaches Association, named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball and a Second Team Freshman All-American by Perfect Game.
• Junior pitcher Danny Sexton was named Second Team All-Horizon League. The Horizon League Pitcher of the Week on February 20 and March 27, Sexton tied for second in the league with eight wins, including decisions over Clemson, South Carolina and Pittsburgh. He also was fourth in the league in ERA (2.78), fifth in opposing batting average (.237) and innings pitched (90.2) and eighth in strikeouts (69).
• Sexton was named to the 40-player midseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, which is given to the top amateur baseball player in the country.
• Junior reliever Derek Hendrixson was also a Second Team All-Horizon League selection as he recorded nine saves, good for second in the league.
• Third baseman Seth Gray appeared on the league’s Second Team as well as the All-Freshman Team. The Horizon League Batter of the Week on April 17, he was third in the league with 19 stolen bases, tied for fourth in triples (4) and tied for sixth in hits (60).
• Junior first baseman Gabe Snyder tied for second in the league with 49 RBI, tied for fourth with 13 home runs and was seventh with a .570 slugging percentage.
• Sophomore pitcher Zane Collins earned two Horizon League Pitcher of the Week awards (March 6 and 20) as he finished third in the league in innings pitched (92.1) and opposing batting average (.216), fourth in strikeouts (77), tied for fifth in wins (7) and was fifth in ERA (2.83).
• Sophomore centerfielder Zach Weatherford was third nationally in stolen bases with 36. That total also set a new school record, eclipsing the 35 by Brian Bailey in 1987.
The Raiders return all but one position starter in 2018 along with all but two pitchers. Also returning are pitcher Caleb Sampen and outfielder Peyton Burdick, who both did not play in 2017 due to injury.
Story provided by WSU Athletic Media Relations.
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